September was the month I would be starting my 6th year of teaching. August was the month Brad and I were supposed to start trying to have a family. July was the month we were supposed to go to Gun Lake with friends. June was the month I would get to see my favorite band, Dave Mathews Band in concert. None of these things happened.
If the last year has taught me anything, it has taught me that life throws curve balls that are often beyond my control. This has been a very hard lesson for me to learn; one that is extremely hard to accept for a type A, control freak like myself. I have also learned that putting timelines on life doesn’t always work out as well.
Throughout my life I have always been an overachiever and always experienced and believed that if I put my mind to something, I would make it happen one way or another. So when I left school in June, I remember telling my assistant that I was devoting the summer to getting healthy and when she saw me again in August to set up the classroom I would be healthy as ever. WRONG.
I worked and worked all summer trying to get better. I employed that same hard headed attitude that I always lived by, that if I worked hard at something it would happen. So as the end of August neared, anxiety hit an all time high as I was significantly worse than when I left in June. I was not anywhere near finding answers, my health continued to decline, and I had spent the whole summer seeing specialists, going to acupuncture, having spinal injections, having tests done, going to physical therapy, trying every diet and non traditional remedy suggested to me (besides marijuana), researching hours and hours for doctors and possible diagnoses, peeing in countless cups, spitting in countless tubes for saliva samples, giving vials and vials of blood, you get the idea…
At the end of August I was getting sick daily with trying to stand and walk. I remember waking up each day wondering if today was the day I was going to pass out. I also needed my hands to hold my mid back up and often hold my hips in place. I felt like I did not have enough hands to support my body.
But the thought of not returning to teaching because of these health issues was unbearable to me. I cried many, many times, not knowing how I would teach with the sickness and instability I was experiencing each day. But I also knew that I needed to be with those precious kids, because teaching was my love and I thought for my mental health I needed to do what I loved doing. I kept trying to wade through the concept of mental health vs. physical health. Plus I kept telling myself that so many families were counting on me.
The week before we were required to report back to school I went into denial mode, packed my car with my teaching materials, and told myself that I was stronger than this illness and I just needed to push through. I went to my classroom at the end of August and began to set up my classroom. I would set up a section of the room and then lay on the floor with the room spinning. I would set up another section and then run to the bathroom with dry heaves. I would crawl on my knees to gather materials so I did not have to stand up. The day my teaching assistant came in to help me she walked into the classroom to find me in hysterics. I felt so dizzy, my heart was racing, my eyesight was blurry, and I could not catch my breath. We talked for a long time about what I needed to do, and at that time I still didn’t know. I was feeling so many emotions. But I knew that the harder I worked at pushing through the sicker I got. The more I worked at setting up the room, the more my back pain went off the charts.
The next day, after a long talk with my family, I realized I had to be honest with myself, and also fair to those 4 and 5 year olds who would be showing up in a week so excited about everything that is school-new backpacks, new crayons, having a name tag, recess, chocolate milk…I knew in my heart that I would not be able to return to work at that time, and do my job how it needed to be done. I strapped on my big girl boots and walked (very slowly while trembling) to have the dreaded medical leave conversation with my principal.
Our conversation could not have gone better. She was so loving and supportive and told me my health comes first, and that is what I needed to focus on. She told me that she would make sure the kids were in great hands while I continued to find answers, and therefore treatment. We even sat in her office and shared a Boost 🙂 I will forever be grateful for the care my principal expressed for me and my family, and the advice she gave me about priorities-that health and family ALWAYS come first. I cried, thanked her, and left her office with a new task of figuring out the whole medical leave thing.
As I went home and figured out who would take over my classroom, everything seemed to fall into place. My assistant’s daughter (who had subbed in my room last year) offered to take over for as long as I needed. She had just finished her internship in lower elementary and was more than qualified for taking over my pre-kindergarten and kindergarten classroom. It was such a relief to know my students would be in excellent hands, while I put my energy into finding answers and treatment options.
September 7th was a difficult day. While my students were starting their first day of school, I was at the cardiologist appointment close to collapsing on the treadmill during the stress test. It was really hard not to feel left behind. I was so frustrated that MY timeline for getting healthy did not work out.
Each day I am reminded of an important life lesson that I have learned at 29~that sometimes life takes twists and turns that are out of my control. However, despite my experiences during the last year, I still strongly believe that if I continue to work hard at getting better, it will eventually happen…it just may not happen on MY time. I believe starting a family will still happen-it just may not happen on OUR time. So I have been forced to throw out all timelines, and have embraced that getting my health back will be a marathon instead of a sprint.
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